I’ve said for years that there are certain aspects of the evolution of baseball ruining the game.
To fix those problems, MLB is just making the problem worse. For starters, strikeouts are no longer a stigma to hitters. It used to be a big deal when Raul Mondesi, formerly of the Dodgers, struck out 120 times or more in a season. When you see that Stan Musial once struck out only 18 times, you just want to shake your head.
Now, striking out 180-220 times in a season isn’t even sneered at anymore. I used to get sick of former Reds Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs walking back to the dugout, with runners in scoring position, oh, by the way, after LOOKING at a third strike. That always burned me up.
So, the drumbeat for about two decades now is that the games are too long.
Baseball fans enjoy being at the ballpark if the action is compelling. These days, fans are treated to a pitch clock, ostensibly to speed up the game.
I saw a rant by talking show host Rich Eison, who I don’t particularly fancy, talking about a nationally televised game between the Phillies and the Brewers (that matchup got the ol’ ticker racing, didn’t it?).
With the NBA playoffs going on and numerous other temporal distractions, Eison said there wasn’t enough with this broadcast to keep him engaged. What was worse was that home plate umpire Angel Hernandez’s strike zone was all over the place. By the third inning, a couple of players were tossed for expressing displeasure over Hernandez’s malleable strike zone.
By game’s end, a nine-inning game, mind you, there were 54 outs, 26 of them strikeouts. Totals for the night? Eight hits and one run. Twenty-six times, nothing happened except, essentially, a game of catch between its pitcher and a catcher, unless a few hitters were able to get a piece of a pitch a dozen times or so.
When you have situations when nearly half the time, the ball isn’t put in play, the ennui makes time drag. Conversely, if the strike zone is consistent and hitters are spraying the ball around, fans will be more engaged.
Eison is right. MLB gives us the impression that it doesn’t care. Commish Rib Manfred needs to stop “fixing” the game.
If he continues to tinker with these silly changes, fans will be on the move more than Hernandez’s strike zone.
Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m CT, Monday-Thursday on WRJB, 95.9 FM, Camden, Tenn.